When I stepped off the plane in Florence last month, it dawned on me that it had almost been 20 years to the day since I was last in this city.
Why I left it so long, I have no idea. But 20 years later I was back – older, a bit wealthier, better dressed but in no way wiser.
I had originally planned to visit Rome. But then saw that thanks to Qatar Airways joining One World, I could now book a flight straight through to Florence with a short stop in Rome.
I’m relieved to say the city hasn’t changed. It just has more Chinese tourists. I have have more expensive taste in shoes.
While I was pleased to see the 2 star place I stayed in back in 1993 was still operating, my home for this visit was the exquisite St Regis Florence. From the moment I stepped out of the taxi to the time I left four days later, I have never been so well looked after in a hotel.
On the banks of the Arno with a glimpse of the Ponte Vecchio and just that little bit away from the tourist hordes to make it glam, this hotel was everything it promised to be. There was more than one occasion I didn’t want to leave. The beauty of the St Regis brand is that guests get their own butler. Mine did everything from bring me coffee and a paper in the morning to finding cheese shops for me to indulge my obsession.
For those travel tragics who say that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, I beg to differ. Florence just never changes. Of course I did all the touristy things – gawped at David, cruised the Ponte Vecchio, bought shoes from Ferragamo and got lost in the uffizi.
But let’s be honest. I was there for the food. And my culinary tour de force actually started at Rome Airport. With an hour to kill and the lounge miles from my gate, I found a bar serving Italian wine and of course, cheese.
It’s hard to look cool and composed while sitting on a tiny stool and juggling your carryon, handbag and a glass of wine. But once the food arrived, it was on.
Culinary highlights from the trip are many and varied. I ate everywhere and everything. From Michelin Star cuisine to sitting at a bench munching a boiled beef rolls with workers from the central market.
Florence has always had a special place in my heart. When I was 23 it was the city that truly made me appreciate art and living. I was hesitant to visit as I was worried it had changed and couldn’t live up to the postcard perfect memory I had. I need not have worried. It was everything I had remembered. And more.
*Life on the Wedge stayed at the St Regis Florence courtesy of the hotel.